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Gavin And Stacey: why it’s not okay to ignore Ruth Jones’ contribution to the show’s success

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Sarah Shaffi
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Gavin And Stacey: Ruth Jones and James Corden co-created the series.

Not crediting Ruth Jones contributes to the erasure of women in comedy.

The 2019 Christmas special of Gavin And Stacey was eagerly anticipated. The statistics show just how eagerly: the programme achieved the best Christmas Day TV ratings for more than a decade, with almost half of all TV viewers choosing to watch the BBC show.

Key to the show’s success is the partnership between co-creators Ruth Jones and James Corden, who star in the show as Nessa and Smithy respectively.

In fact, without both of them on board, the Christmas special – the first episode of the show in 10 years – wouldn’t have happened. Jones told the BBC that she and Corden have kept in touch over the years, sending each other lines for the show’s characters.

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The pair worked together on the script for the Christmas special, and both contacted the show’s original cast to check their availability for filming.

But it seems that the credit for the show’s success is not being split evenly, with one headline in particular coming in for criticism. After a website tweeted the headline “James Corden delivers Britain’s biggest Christmas Day TV audience in 11 years with Gavin & Stacey”, Twitter users were quick to point out Jones’ role.

“Stop ignoring women in comedy,” wrote Sian Harries, a co-writer on Channel 4’s Man Down.

Writer Sally Abbott tweeted: “Didn’t James Corden co-write this with someone else….?

“Her name is Ruth Jones.”

Some people have pointed out that the headline is for a US audience, which is likely to know Corden better than Jones, but the erasure of Jones is the latest in a long line of slights against women in comedy.

Sexism is rife in comedy; producer Gina Lyons wrote for Stylist about how she is faced with sexism weekly. “It’s in the casual remarks, the bookings, the on-stage introductions,” wrote Lyons. 

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And the narrative that women aren’t funny persists; just a few months ago a video of four white men talking about how women are only funny when “emulating a man” went viral.

Harries pointed out in her tweets that the erasure of women “happens a lot”. She cited how Jessica Hynes is rarely named as the co-writer of Spaced, alongside Simon Pegg, proving that this is a continuing problem.

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That’s why it’s so important that every headline and piece about Gavin & Stacey acknowledges Jones’ contribution on a par with Corden’s, regardless of how “famous” each person is. 

Anything less is erasure of women in comedy, and perpetuates the stereotype that women aren’t funny. And you only need to watch Jones as Nessa to know that’s not true.

Image: BBC

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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